Glory Falls, Maya Angelou: Summary & Analysis

"Glory Falls" by Maya Angelou reflects on the juxtaposition of despair and hope, hatred and growth, and the human capacity for transformation. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, the poem explores themes of suffering, resilience, and the potential for positive change.

Glory Falls by Maya Angelou

Glory falls around us
as we sob
a dirge of
desolation on the Cross
and hatred is the ballast of
the rock
which his upon our necks
and underfoot.
We have woven
robes of silk
and clothed our nakedness
with tapestry.
From crawling on this
murky planet's floor
we soar beyond the
birds and
through the clouds
and edge our waays from hate
and blind despair and
bring horror
to our brothers, and to our sisters cheer.
We grow despite the
horror that we feed
upon our own
We grow.


"Glory Falls" contemplates the duality of human existence, highlighting the presence of suffering and hatred alongside the potential for growth and positive change. The poem's imagery evokes a sense of despair and transformation, suggesting that despite the horrors of the world, individuals have the capacity to rise above and cultivate hope.

Critical Analysis

"Glory Falls" captures the complexities of the human experience by juxtaposing themes of suffering and resilience. The opening lines depict "Glory" falling around individuals who are sobbing a "dirge of desolation on the Cross." This imagery echoes themes of suffering and religious allusions. The metaphor of "hatred" as the "ballast of the rock" on people's necks and underfoot emphasizes the weight of negative emotions that can burden individuals.

The contrast between despair and transformation is vividly portrayed. The imagery of "woven robes of silk" and "clothed our nakedness with tapestry" suggests a veneer of prosperity and refinement, concealing underlying struggles. The progression from "crawling on this murky planet's floor" to "soar beyond the birds and through the clouds" symbolizes the potential for growth and transcendence.

The poem's closing lines emphasize the paradoxical nature of growth amid horror. Despite the self-inflicted "horror that we feed upon our own tomorrow," there's a determination to grow. This growth signifies an ongoing process of transformation and positive change, even in the face of challenges.

Themes of the Poem

  • Despair and Transformation: The poem explores the contrast between despair and the potential for growth and positive change.
  • Resilience: The poem highlights the human capacity to endure suffering and overcome adversity.
  • Complexity of Humanity: The poem delves into the dual nature of human existence, encompassing both suffering and the potential for hope.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The poem's vivid imagery creates a sensory-rich portrayal of the emotions and experiences being conveyed.
  • Metaphor: The metaphor of "hatred" as a "ballast of the rock" and "tomorrow" as a self-inflicted horror adds depth to the poem's themes.
  • Contrast: The contrast between negative emotions and positive growth enhances the poem's exploration of human resilience.


  • Despair: The poem conveys a sense of despair and suffering experienced by individuals.
  • Hope: Despite the darkness, the poem conveys a sense of hope and the potential for personal and collective growth.


  • Metaphor: The metaphorical language enriches the poem's exploration of complex emotions and experiences.
  • Imagery: The vivid imagery immerses the reader in the contrasting emotions and transformations described in the poem.

Sound Devices

  • Alliteration: The repetition of sounds in phrases like "Glory falls" and "edge our ways" adds a rhythmic quality to the poem.
  • Repetition: The repetition of certain phrases and concepts emphasizes key themes and emotions.

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